Tardiness could cost the young rookie his promotion from animal control to the police force, but he didn’t want to be promoted, anyway. He dallied from the police station through the parking lot until he eyed the car in space # 341, the one he’d been assigned. Now he understood part of his duty for the day. He’d been ordered to drive the grumpy sergeant because the old guy probably didn’t have a clue how to handle the algae-fueled automobile. The sergeant had come from the building from the other direction, and both officers climbed in the car and slammed their doors, angry they had been assigned to go fetch a live pig.
A whir sounded. After watching the oxygen indicator climb to a safe level, they pulled plugs from their noses. The plugs and tubes were never reusable—nasty from one use. Shoving tubing in disinfecting bins in the dash with one hand, they pushed their breathing tanks into the same compartment for a refill with another hand. Click. Sshhh. Click. Sshhh. All this trouble to breathe outside in the year 2030.
“Man, oh, man. I got razzed this morning by the other officers about this assignment. You get any coffee cake?” the young officer, Polease, asked from the driver’s seat.
Coffee sloshed out of the top of the senior officer’s cup as he slid it in the holder. From the passenger seat, he answered with his hoarse morning voice. “Cake?”
“Someone baked one—pink and pig-shaped. When I came into the break room, they sang to the tune of Happy Birthday, only they changed the words to ‘Happy pig day to you.’ Above the cake, the guys had hung a banner that read: Talking Pig with Cloned Human Brain
Time. Like a Happy Birthday banner, get it? Good cake, though.”
“You ate some? Should have shoved it in the server’s face. Did ‘ya get the cook’s name?”
“Yeah, I mean, no, Sarge,” Polease said. “Sarge, right, speaking of names—”
“Everyone knows me by my screen name, Theocop, and it’s all you need to know. From now on, if you’re talking to me in person, we got a problem. Otherwise, I’ll send orders on lexmail, so you check your messages on your gadio.” Sarge’s raspy voice almost echoed in the car. Observant and hard, he’d been likened to a 50 year-old James Bond because he always wore a gray suit, but he lacked a Bond hair style. Sarge actually owned a pair of clippers and kept his crew cut short. Daily.
In the squad car, Polease toyed with the devices. So far he’d found the lane sensor icon, the anti-crash mode, and the cruise control. “Hey, fine, use my new screen name, ‘Polease,’ if you like, or use my badge number—020. The guys razz me, calling me, you know, ‘zero to zero’”
Theocop pulled at his seat belt to accommodate his build, whistled like a falling missile at the prospect of calling someone “zero to zero,” and settled back into his seat. They all tried to make something of badge numbers. It was one of the junior officers’ weird games.
The seat belt held tight on Polease’s young, thin build. To see to drive, he whisked his dark brown, kinky, scissor-cut hair away from his small, blue eyes. He yanked on his pants leg to adjust his navy blue, one-piece jump suit, and he wiggled his trapped shoulder free of the belt’s auto-grip. He lowered the seat to accommodate his height. Picking up the wireless steering wheel, he scrolled through the drive menu on the car’s monitor.
Theocop stretched, feigning patience. “You gonna drive or fidget—whatever your name is—nil, naught, zero, Polease?” Theocop almost smiled. Almost.
“Drive, yes, in a minute. Hey funny, they make biogas partly from pig manure, so our pig-manure powered car picks up the pig. If we run out of petro, we can plug in the pig.”
“Too early for ying-yang, boy. Way too early,” Theocop said.
Polease eased the car out of the parking space. There were no cars on the road. Only drivers with official permission could add CO2 and NO2 to the air. Polease set the sensors to DETECT. The dummy light in the dash read: LANE GUIDES DETECTED— 1055 linked for 10.2 miles. The monitor flashed AUTOPILOT ON FOR 10.1 miles.
Theocop had heard from the cadets about how irritating this new guy could be. Irritating habits included talking too much and touching everything whether it belonged to him or not. So far, he fiddled with everything in the new cruiser and figured out how to drive it—more than Theocop understood after a couple of hours with the car manual last night. Now, Sarge hoped to keep the newbie from talking too much.
“Hey, wheeeeelable wheels,” Polease exclaimed. He had been warned while eating the pig-cake it would be unwise to talk to Sarge too much, especially in the morning.
Theocop inhaled, dreading the conversation. When he talked, the muscles in his face became visible. When alerted or annoyed, his meaty earlobes twitched, earning him his nick-name, the one used only behind his back, Dumbo. “Drive and listen. I’m going to iron this out for you like your great-grandma used to steam-iron aprons. First, understand; this pig is valuable. It’s got quite a noodle. Doctors call it the first viable human, cloned brain. Chetley Takes, the pharmaceutical guru, claims the brain belongs to him. Takes had his brain cloned and his gray matter grew in the pig’s head, get it?”
“Guess the pig has an argument. The brain is in his head, right,” Polease said.
“Boy, you can think anything you want, and you can say it, too, to certain people. If you plan to move up from animal control to the police force, you better not let anyone important hear you say the pig has rights.”
“Hey. Just saying—”
The hot coffee had taken some of the harshness from Theocop’s voice. “Learn to listen, will ‘ya? Unfortunately for us, since the blessed pig can talk, piggy decided along with a few animal activist friends, and one of those free lawyers, to sue in order to keep the brain.”
If Polease could keep his superior talking, he could boast he had an actual conversation with him. “Hey, I get the controversy, and I’ve read all about why they clone pigs to keep the cloned organs until one of those rich guys needs a new part, but nobody’s done a brain transplant before.”
Theocop had done his homework for this case; yesterday, he watched the documentary prepared for Take’s organ harvesting team. “This assignment needs kid gloves, kid. The same brain cancer that runs in Takes family has turned him into a couch commander, and he knows the risks in attempting the first brain transfer. He’s just dusty about dying. Hence, our orders. Move the swine without stressing it out. Official wording: The pig is not to suffer any trepidation.”
“Okay, but why aren’t we taking an animal control vehicle?”
Theocop started to pick up his coffee, but smacked it back into the cup holder. “Aren’t you listening? You have to interpret orders. Caging the pig for the ride might cause trepidation.”
“Any other interpretations?”
“Choosing you. You have experience with pigs and video games. Figured you could drive this new contraption to the farm and get the pig back.”
Reasons. Theocop had real reasons for choosing Polease and using screen names, and the real reasons were unrelated to pigs and cars. He knew the kid’s animal control experience was limited to zapping the fierce city squirrels with RemoteLaserBots. But years ago, Theocop made a promise to a dying partner to watch over the boy. Theocop had sent a lexmail once in a while to his partner’s widow, so he feared the youngster knew his name. She may have mentioned, “Daddy’s sergeant, Theodore, sent a lex and asked about you, too.”
In moments of guilt, using a different screen name each time, Theocop played on-line games with the kid. The kid beat him every time. Theocop often thought it was too bad he hadn’t been asked to take care of a dog or a fish. Actually, if it had to be a mammal, he would have preferred a gerbil. Gerbils don’t live very long, and they can’t win at video games.
Everybody had reasons. The public cared about this case. Most people lived in oxygen-conditioned apartments without permission to move around outside. Little sympathy existed for the wealthy people who moved about with oxygen tanks and cars. With the resources from his company, Takes had stretched luxurious living over 125 years, making him the oldest, richest man alive.
Theocop pressed an icon on the mega-screen for the MediaMonkey’s latest results. The MediaMonkey question posed: Who should live, pig or Takes? 85% responded—PIG.
At the top of the Webpage, a hacker had added a banner that read: Eat the rich. Eat their pigs. Theocop hit the “report” button. After a minute or two, a message appeared on the screen: Thanks, citizen. We’ll add 5 equalizer points to this Friday’s pay~ The Language Cleansers
Polease didn’t want to see statistics. Boring. “Can’t you click on a program or something?”
“Yeah. Give it a minute.” For his own personal reasons, Theocop wanted to watch the documentary featuring his girlfriend, Katharine Moore, head of the Cloning Institute, supporting Chetley Takes’ side of the issue. He loved to watch her snowball the public. Knowing she lied and knowing the truth made him feel powerful. Truth is power, even when you hide it, and maybe it’s even more powerful when you do.